The last time I saw my Dad, he was preparing to visit his brother Tom. Why today, I wonder, when I’ve driven all the way from Toronto just to see him! We’re all here, my siblings and I, laughing and joking as always, usually at each other’s expense, loving each other roughly, as is our style. Despite that roughness, we are more comfortable in each other’s company than anywhere else in the world. We have all gathered for a visit with Dad this afternoon. But he is about to drive off to visit his brother!
“Why is Dad going to Tom’s?” I ask my brothers, as he prepares himself for the trip.
“He is ‘putting his affairs in order’,” Jim tells me.
“What!?” I ask, disdainful of the ominous meaning of those words. I knew that the two years since Mom’s death had been hard on Dad. Indeed, for a while, it had seemed he had lost his will to live. But, lately, since he had found this little house in the middle of nowhere, with his bird-feeder, and his little vegetable garden, he had seemed more content. First, I am saddened to learn what I know to be true, and then I am hurt. Aren’t we enough, I wonder? We miss her too. But there are eight of us remaining who love him! And there are grandchildren. Isn’t that enough to live for? Suddenly I am angry too. But in our family, we try to keep our emotions below the surface. I keep my thoughts to myself.
“Well, I’ll be on my way,” he says, or something to that effect. One by one my brothers and sisters get up to say goodbye to Dad, and to wish him a safe trip. I remain seated, my back to the door. I feel him waiting, but do not turn my head.
“Dad’s leaving, Jo,” they tell me.
“See ya!” I say, or something like that.
There is a long silence as he continues to wait; and so do I. Finally, I hear the door open and shut, and then the car door. Then the engine starts, and soon he is driving down the road.
That damned road! It is down that same road that my brother drives, just a couple of months later, too fast for safety on the gravel surface. But despite his speed, he is unable to get to the hospital in time. Dad’s heart stops on the way. When I hear the news I am again angry: “Why in hell did he live way out there anyway!”
The last time I saw my Dad, I didn’t say “Goodbye.” But he left anyway.